Fr. José Manuel Madruga Salvador
* A priest from the diocese of Burgos and member of the IEME. He was a missionary in the Dominican Republic. He was Director General of the IEME (1993-2003). He currently works in a neighborhood parish in the city of Burgos and is the Coordinator-Secretary of the Department of Sociopolitical Formation of the diocese of Burgos.
We start from the supposition that missionary cooperation is the expression of everyone's participation in the missionary dynamism that comes from baptism and the Church. We carry out this dynamism in a community way and so cooperation has to be done with others, in communion. Therefore, cooperation cannot take place if it does not come about radically as personal self-giving. Consequently, personal cooperation has to be at the origin and foundation of missionary cooperation. Without this personal commitment, the other forms of cooperation would be help from the outside, from a distance.1
The demands of Christian charity lead us to open up to collaboration with others, the non-Christians, the poor and the least ones. In this opening to others, especially the weakest, we are always exposed to very different kinds of experiences that can give life or also destroy it. It is in this alternative where spirituality finds its place.2 The radical alternative between «giving life and destroying it» is raised for anyone who works in cooperation, especially economic cooperation, since the direct receivers are the weakest and the most fragile. The delicate interventions, which cooperation is, call for precise, quality instruments and hands that are expert in using them. The weaker the person or reality where we want to intervene, the more care we have to give and the better instruments we have to use. If cooperation is only in one direction, poorly focused, or of a paternalistic or even colonialist kind, the long-term effect can be harmful rather than helpful.
Since human persons are always involved, we have to maximize the care and quality of our interventions because fragile people are involved. Ignacio Ellacuria said: «We always have to give the poor the best of ourselves». Let us not forget that the most decisive instrument in any social intervention is the person who intervenes; therefore, the highest quality and spiritual refinement should always be sought. Missionary cooperation is carried out within the communion of the Churches. This communion between the Churches should be accompanied by signs and carried out in complete respect for the dignity of the other Churches and based on their real needs. This implies avoiding any kind of paternalism and dependence and enhancing their tradition and accepting their protagonism.
1. Criteria in the use of economic resources
Communion and economic cooperation go hand in hand. This implies recognition and respect for each Church's identity and avoiding any kind of paternalism or domination. Cooperation cannot be carried out in only one direction. It is a common, reciprocal action through which each Church lets itself be enriched and made fruitful by the charismas of the others.
A correct economic cooperation implies a prophetic and political dimension because it cannot fail to take an interest in the social, economic, political and cultural problems of the countries where it is exercised. Cooperation goes beyond economic aid and so cooperation cannot be reduced merely to the economic sphere.
Also, missionary cooperation is not a variation of volunteer work or a social service, which are both commendable. A missionary is something more; his service is the expression of God's love for his creatures. Like Jesus, he announces and proclaims the coming of the Kingdom and tries to accompany his announcement with some gestures and signs that refer to the Kingdom, but which simply remain in those gestures because we are not called to solve the problems that afflict humanity and we do not have the necessary means to end them. Today many see the solution to humanity's problems in greater dialogue and solidarity. Without dialogue and solidarity there will be no justice, peace or freedom among human beings. Even so, economic cooperation cannot do without the use of money, and so it is important to discern the way to use it well by following evangelical and ethical criteria and taking the ecclesial and missionary praxis into account.
1.1. In the light of the Gospel
Let us see how Jesus' existence is marked by the reality of universal fraternity. In this sense we are all sons and daughters of the one same God and brothers and sisters to one another. For God, the differences are not barriers of exclusion but a source of enrichment and our human relations must be relations of love, service and solidarity. To the question, Who is my brother?, Jesus will respond that a neighbor is someone who becomes a neighbor to another with a compassionate heart, especially those who are wounded along the way. In announcing the nearness of the Kingdom of God, Jesus inaugurates a new way of relations between human beings. The virtues of this Kingdom will be goodness, compassion, humility, generosity, service, forgiveness and love, and the opposite will be the kingdom of evil incarnated in the idols of selfishness, honor and money. Money is an idol that desensitizes people. A missionary must depend on God not money. We see how Jesus culminates his mission on the cross by giving his life for everyone. Jesus dies naked and despoiled of everything. The fact that Jesus dies naked is not a superfluous detail. It is a gesture that enters into the logic of the Incarnation. Jesus, «although he was rich became poor and humbled himself until death» and in this way he had solidarity with the poor and the victims of the world.3
1.2. Praxis of the first Christian communities
The first Christian communities put themselves in the perspective of Jesus' teachings and followed the example of his life. They tried to become incarnate in human reality and to live according to Jesus' spirit by loving and supporting one another. They were only one spirit and one heart and they shared everything they had (cf. Acts 2:44-46). In the collection they organized for the Jerusalem community, we can see the solidarity-based willingness of the first communities, just like the election of people with the specific mission to serve the poor.4
1.3. The missionary activity of the Church
The Church's missionary activity has collaborated to a great extent in the formation, birth and growth of many local Churches, which are the fruit of communion and ecclesial and evangelical solidarity. This an unfinished task called to be purified and to mature in order to give authentic fruits. Today it is necessary to reflect on the cooperation model related to the mission in order to formulate and specify the criteria for financing in such a way that they will not curb the process of growth and maturation of the young local Churches. These Churches have to become self-sufficient in a gradual way not so much by producing greater economic resources as by assuming lifestyles and structures suited to their context.5
2. A lived spirituality based on economic cooperation
Spirituality in the area of economic cooperation should aim at helping the Churches, institutions, parishes, Christian NGOs and persons to let themselves be guided by the Spirit in order to discover the most evangelical ways to live Christian communion and solidarity, without forgetting justice. Spirituality, on the one hand, should give keys that will help to read, welcome and manage one's interior experience in order to recognize it, integrate it and capture its message, and to develop it in such a way that it will help those who feel involved in the dynamics of cooperation to grow humanly and spiritually. But it also has as its mission to transform and purify those who are committed to cooperation so that in their dealings with others they will be and act in a way that generates humanization, dignity and life. An appropriate spirituality has to give not only human quality and a life horizon to cooperation but cooperation itself also has to be an authentic spiritual experience. We ask ourselves about the notes, accents and virtues that would need to be strengthened in cooperation in order to make it a place of the Spirit's presence and action, a privileged space for the proclamation of the Gospel and the encounter with God. Let us not forget that cooperation is geared to evangelization, to the exercise of the ad gentes mission, and in that sense it must lead to the explicit proclamation of the Kerygma in a globalized world.
2.1. A profound experience of God
Anyone who enters the field of cooperation as an exercise of communion between Churches and with the horizon of evangelization should have a profound experience of God. A shortcoming of many Christians at times is their weak spiritual experience of God the Father. We see how Jesus experienced that God came closer to human history and endowed the human being with potentialities to build the Kingdom. This religious experience of God is what must shape the human person in the work to build the Kingdom based on the task of cooperation. We see how Jesus went through the world doing good, carrying out works, fighting evil, and practicing mercy. Through his goodness and mercy, the people of his time saw that he was good like God.
Something which attracts attention in Jesus is his close union with God the Father, his moments of prayer and his revelation of God's project over humanity. But we cannot leave aside the fire and strength of the Spirit which drove him through the ways of the mission. It is the Spirit who opens our eyes more and invites us to go further and further beyond ethnic and religious barriers. It is the Spirit who calls us to prayer in order to bring it to our brothers. The Spirit also leads us to open our eyes and hearts to reality, to the signs of the times, in order to discern the active, operating presence of God where the mission must be directed and geared.
2.2. A passion for the Kingdom of God and Us Justice
The Kingdom is the project of God who communicates himself as the Creator and Redeemer. It is identified with the Father's infinite love and, like him, it has no limits and cannot be countered by any conditioning. God's loving project is manifested in Jesus Christ, who identified with the divine project that constitutes the Kingdom. Jesus is the sign and sacrament of the Kingdom; not only does he signify and proclaim it but he achieves it in his life, death and resurrection. For this reason Jesus is the Kingdom in person. The Kingdom is first and foremost God's action guided by the Holy Spirit to the coming of Jesus Christ and its full realization. The spirit of the Risen Jesus then universalizes his mystery of salvation and makes it operative in the whole of creation and throughout history. Linked to the paschal mystery, the Spirit's saving action works through the Churches which, with an abundance of means, collaborates in establishing the Kingdom and prepares us to receive it. The Spirit also acts through what is righteous and true in other religions even though ultimately the building of the Kingdom is always God's work.
In cooperation we have to be aware that the Church's mission is a service to the establishment of the Kingdom of God even though it is hard for us to see at times that God and the Spirit of Jesus build the Kingdom and not our activities. Our participation in God's mission to establish the Kingdom, and concretely our own mission as the Church, leads us to contemplate the mystery of God. This means that in cooperation we will discover the divine presence in us and in others, and for this an ever more profound conversion to the values of the Kingdom is needed: to a perception of God as love with no conditions or limits which is realized, first and foremost, in the excluded; to a love for all human beings whom we perceive as our real brothers, and to a complete faith and hope that the Kingdom is already coming and will reach its fullness.
Finally, it also calls us to humility, to be servants of a mystery that we do not possess or dominate but which we sometimes try to control by putting ourselves in situations of presumed power based on the economic resources we manage. We forget that the Kingdom is first and foremost God's action and a response to a call.
2.3. The choice for the least ones
Poverty and injustice are realities that greatly challenge the Christian concept of salvation and, consequently, the exercise of the mission. Without missionary action having to be geared only towards those situations, we need to remember that the mission often makes headway in the midst of situations of extreme poverty and many times of injustice and conflict. We are referring to a mission contextualized by the situation of many poor people, victims of exclusion, for whom the mission must be first of all a word of life and hope, the Good News.
The preferential choice for the least ones should mark the spirituality of those who live cooperation as communion between Churches. Human wealth, as Vito Del Prete says, sterilizes the saving power of the name of Christ. It is in weakness where God's grace is manifested. Evangelical poverty, in its most radical form, is a proclamation and a convinced testimony to our faith and our complete confidence.6 Coexistence with the poor has to awaken and lead to a new kind of experience of God, a God who is closer to this world of the excluded and marginalized; a liberating God who only acts through the power of his Word in Jesus, a poor Word crucified for love of humanity. It is not strange that Jesus' experience on the cross becomes the central axis of missionary spirituality. Vito Del Prete would say that this involves first and foremost living a poor lifestyle, which must characterize the evangelizing persons and communities. Evangelical poverty was always like a mermaid that enchanted entire Christian generations and from which purification processes arose from time to time in the Church, and creativity and effectiveness with regard to pastoral and evangelizing activity.7 We should adopt the identity again of the poor, itinerant missionaries who appear in Matthew's sending in the Gospel: «Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep» (Mt 10:9-10). «The poor people of Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe must welcome the missionaries as signs and sacraments of Christ: "Anyone who welcomes you, welcomes me, and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me" (Mt 10:40), and not for the resources and aid they can offer. For this welcome, which I would call "sacramental", to be possible, the apostle must lose his own life: that is, he must follow Christ, deny himself and take up his cross every day (Mt 10:28-39)».8 In this way the saving capacity of Christ's name would shine and we would experience it. It would also be useful in dispelling any doubts and suspicions regarding Christians who are sometimes accused of imposing their religion and foreign culture through their economic power. A poor Church in its lifestyle and structures, which is humanly defenseless, is the most convincing means of communicating the weakness of God's love.
The first thing that comes to mind when speaking about gratuitousness is the fact that we do not charge anything for our services or in compensation for our aid from the ones we help. Obviously we are not talking about charging money for our aid but other less material but no less onerous forms of gratification which basically have to do with compensations of an affective kind. «It is a question of not charging when things go well in the form of dependency, fidelity, belonging, silence... nor when things do not go well, in this case, in the form of reprimands, belittlement, damaging remarks, rancor or resentment. Gratuitousness is when our action is not conditioned by the response we receive but by the need we detect».9
«Your faith has saved you. Go in peace». Jesus uses this phrase repeatedly after many of his healing and liberating actions and signs. Basically, it is a perfect synthesis of the gratuitousness that should characterize all cooperation which aims at building communion and humanity. Jesus does not require any kind of compensation for his help and the person who is healed feels empowered in his or her deepest aspirations and affirmed in his or her dignity.
We need to deepen the dimensions of a kind of gratuitousness that dignifies and gives cooperation its authentic meaning of communion. Beyond the first meaning of not charging either affectively or effectively, gratuitousness has some finer contours. It also consists in not seeking or obtaining personal benefits or returns from cooperation in the form of prestige, creating an image, and merits that we award ourselves as persons, dioceses and institutions. We should avoid treating people like «my property», «my poor», «my people» and taking over exclusive rights that no one has given us and which may even impede or disrupt another kind of cooperation. Never exchange dignity for aid. If our cooperation tries to take away dignity, it turns into something perverse and harmful. We would have to ask ourselves if all the economic resources are directed along the line of gratuitousness. In addition to respecting and treating people with the greatest dignity, gratuitousness is making an effort to stress everything good and positive we find in human beings, even if this is not too obvious, and always starting from them and their needs and potentialities.
Gratuitousness is opening up horizons and pointing out possibilities, favoring everything in people that will strengthen their progressive autonomy. Gratuitousness is giving effective protagonism and reducing dependencies to a maximum. Gratuitousness is generating freedom in those who approach us and dismissing any possible dependencies.
2.5. Openness to inculturation and intercultural dialogue
The inculturation process will only be possible if the evangelizers and the Christian communities live evangelical poverty. Otherwise, we could be giving the image of an external juxtaposition of doctrines or rituals that are difficult for the faithful to understand. In speaking about inculturation, we have to refer to the mustard seed from the Gospel of the Kingdom, which continues to grow until it becomes a tree in whose branches the birds of the sky make their nests (Mt 13:32). The seed of the Kingdom of God is like this which contains a principle of development until it reaches its full development.
This seed, which is Jesus Christ, the Word of God sowed in humanity, as Vito Del Prete says,10 rejects all powerful means (abundance of goods, wonders and dominion, (cf. Mt 4:1-11), in order to grow and develop. It is a seed that must first wither and die in order to produce fruit (Jn 12:24). This is the path that Christ followed, as expressed by Paul's Christological hymn in his Letter to the Philippians (2:6-8). This seed has plunged deep roots into humanity, especially the most scorned part of society like the poor, the oppressed and marginalized and the forgotten whose fate he shared. The incarnation taken seriously led Jesus to be crucified and to attract everyone to him and he became the way, the truth and the life. Only in the mystery of Christ we can understand the mystery of man.
At the base of a real inculturation lies the kenotic spirituality of lowering, poverty and sharing, realities which any messenger of the Gospel cannot overlook. The seed of the Gospel ought to be sowed in other peoples and cultures not through great works or manifestations of power, but with simplicity. Each of the seeds will germinate taking on its own peculiarity with no danger of being drowned or conditioned by economic power or human wisdom.
The need for and the use of money, as Vito Del Prete emphasizes, should be measured against this fundamental requirement of the Christian mystery because inculturation is not a dress or cultural covering for the Gospel but essentially the local Christian community's progressive path to evangelical holiness. Life models that are out of proportion from the personal and community standpoint, rich structures in poor contexts, turn the Christian communities into an oasis in the desert, condemned inevitably to be considered a ghetto, isolated from the environment in which they live.11 The inculturation process is a task above all of the local community which by living and assimilating the requirements of the Gospel will come to express it and give it its own religious, cultural and social sensitivity until the point that it will be ferment that purifies and exalts the local cultural and religious values.
A missionary has to be a person with a very strong, solid spiritual experience, but, at the same time, he must be open to possible encounters and exchanges with other religious experiences. Inter-religious dialogue implies an authentic encounter beforehand. When dialogue is preceded by an encounter, we can speak without being in a confrontational situation. Dialogue springs from the encounter, an essential condition for dialogue. This is not a strategy; the encounter is the very heart of the mission; it is gratuitous and; disinterested. Inter-religious dialogue is fruitful when life experiences are exchanged rather than ideas. On the other hand, today, when we try to approach reality, which is itself so complex, undetermined and uncertain, we need many approaches, various readings and participative methodologies. That is, a mono-cultural and mono-disciplinary style of understanding reality is no longer possible; we are obliged to include the intercultural paradigm.
Inter-culturality is an experience of interrelation, reciprocity and equilibrium which presupposes the capacity for inner openness, sincere listening, encounter between those who are different, mutual learning and reciprocal reconciliation in order to seek dialogue and the common construction of a new project of society and a more authentic Church.12 Most of the missionary institutes through their internationality contribute in a specific way to the mission because they give witness to the unity and diversity of the Church and the Kingdom of God. This witness is particularly necessary in a globalized world where nations and peoples at the same time are forced to become increasingly interdependent and to continue experiencing divisions and ethnic and racial conflicts.13
Through their internationality the missionaries become a source of hope for a world torn by cultural misunderstandings and ethnic violence. In their fraternal and community life, which is not free from tensions, they show that diversity does not have to lead to divisions but unity; that enemies can become friends; that the walls which divide us can turn into open doors; that strangers can be brothers and sisters, and that frontiers can become bridges that unite. Genuine intercultural life, as Antonio Pernia says, should lead to a situation in which the different cultures really complement one another and the cultural differences do not impede but rather enrich community life and apostolic service. An intercultural community does not come about automatically; it needs time to be created in a conscious way, promoted intentionally, looked after carefully and nourished with attention.14
If we want to take on and live intercultural dialogue, an authentic experience of the Trinitarian Mystery is essential in all its dimensions and expressions. The intercultural communities have to recreate, promote and forge spiritualities that are more evangelical, more intercultural, and more respectful of differences. Aparecida suggests formation with a universal heart, open to all cultures and all truths by cultivating the capacity for human contact and dialogue (DA 377). The men and women missionaries are called to respond to the missionary challenge of interculturality by helping to promote a real multicultural Church. A Church that will be the home of peoples from different cultures, an instrument of intercultural dialogue and a sign of everyone's inclusion in the Kingdom of God. A multicultural Church will be a sign that the Kingdom includes everyone and excludes no one, and that there are no foreigners or outsiders in it, only brothers and sisters.
2.6. The vocation to be a companion
When we are really inserted into a people's life, which involves attitudes and time, we share in their spirituality. Humanity forms a great community led by the Spirit and in which the Spirit acts in the diversity of peoples and cultures and generates an admirable communion. The spirituality of those who work in economic cooperation should be nourished by the spiritual progress of the peoples with whom they have entered into communion. They should let themselves be evangelized and share in the experience those people are having with God. They should become persons who accompany them, their companions along the way.
Along the way, which is very often slow, it is necessary to move to the people's rhythm. Those who are in a hurry, who do not stop, who rush from one place to another, who move too much with an arsenal of means and resources, cannot discover the seeds of the Word or God's action, or listen to the cries and sighs of the Spirit. There is no doubt that the greatest concern should not be doing but being. What is important above all is to be the presence of God's love which, like salt, gives flavor and builds a community of poor people.
We would need to stop being obsessed about being in a rush and have a greater passion for God's mission, which does not have to do as much with material achievements, constructions and projects as with the ties, the fruits of communion created among the people, the quality of our way of «being with», our fraternity, our tenderness, our understanding, our compassion and our hospitality
Patience and fortitude are essential virtues in this walking with the people and adapting to their rhythm. Patience with the people we want to share with and even help, patience with the transformation processes and their rhythms, and patience with ourselves as companions. Patience is also not being hasty in judgments and assessments. How often have we erred by judging hastily! Also, we are wrong when we evaluate our action according to satisfaction or dissatisfaction. For Dolores Aleixandre, patience «is becoming familiar with the Gospel law of the long term which counts on the slowness with which the yeast ferments the dough or a seed opens up in the ground.15
To stay, to persevere, to not abandon are verbs that should be conjugated in the area of fortitude. The fact that we continue is not to prove something to ourselves or presume anything with regard to others. We stay and persevere because we give priority to others before ourselves; because we take their suffering, their difficulties and their dignity seriously, and all of this is more important than our doubts and possible disappointments. This patience and spiritual fortitude are gifts that are given to us and which are recreated when we live with our brothers face to face, when we open our hearts to the life of the poor and try to be as honest as possible.
3. Guidelines for action beyond economic resources
The first guideline for action is to take the centrality of the local Church seriously. It should be respected in its dignity and identity within ecclesial communion. The objective of economic co-operation is not to dominate, create dependencies, imbalances and inequalities, but to favor and aid the creation of incarnated and inculturated communities that have influence on society like the hidden — leaven that makes the dough ferment from within (cf. Lk 13:20). The documents of the Magisterium talk about coordination and mutual cooperation between Churches and missionary institutes (AG 33 and 41), in view of creating an autonomous local Church led by a Bishop and a local clergy. The local Churches have to progress towards self-sufficiency. A Church is self-sufficient when it lives of its faith and its means, and does not undertake works that are characteristic of the mentality and history of the Churches from the Western countries. Otherwise, the Churches will always depend on the flow of money from the outside because there are no local resources for that kind of works.
The missionaries and the Churches ,of ancient Christianity have to be vigilant so that money will not become «the ultimate criterion of a mission's activity, which cannot be reduced to paid activities and more or less gratuitous works, but should instead stand out for its zeal and virtue, its sacrifice and witness, and the transparency of its faith».16
Of course, the local Churches have to aim at achieving self-sufficiency through self-funding which, by necessity, will call for a lifestyle in accordance with the people's standards of life, and building appropriate structures that are not out of tune with the real situation. Another guideline for action consists in considering the fact that the main objective of economic cooperation should be to promote ecclesial communion and keep it alive: the origin and fruit of the same. This implies not only an abundance of love and charity, but also mutual respect, appreciation of the culture, language and values which the Spirit instills in each of the local Churches. Likewise, an attempt should not be made to impose customs and ways of acting that are overly linked to the culture of the one who is offering the aid. Sometimes this is a difficult task because it is unavoidable to be a vehicle of a given culture. Ecclesial solidarity should aim at responding to the real, felt needs of the Church that requests economic cooperation. Here the local Church plays a decisive role.
We have already referred to the need to respect the local Church's rhythms of growth. In this way the continuity of the work is ensured and the bases are set for building a more adult, more transparent and more witnessing local Church. Economic cooperation should be conveyed through people who have a great human quality and are endowed with fully-tested patience and a great human and ecclesial evangelical sense. Cooperation does not substitute the local Church's efforts to promote their own material and spiritual development nor does it jeopardize the civil society's responsibility.
Economic cooperation has to have a prophetic and a political dimension. It calls for the denunciation of the causes of institutionalized violence and age-old poverty, and it must be committed to the search for appropriate solutions. And this should be done without pretending overlooking the global problems of the sociocultural, political and economic surroundings. Solidarity within the ecclesial community should not impede solidarity with the rest of humanity, and other forms of extra-ecclesial cooperation and solidarity should be added to the channels of cooperation between local Churches, especially when it is a matter of seeking the common good or giving a response to the needs of men and women who are victims of violence, poverty or natural catastrophes.17
1 Cf. «La cooperación misionera: la misión "ad gentes" en comunión». Document from the Forum of the review Misiones Extrajeras to be published.
2 Cf. Mollá D., «La espiritualidad en la acción social», n. 363, September-October 2006.
3 Cf. «La cooperación misionera: la misión "ad gentes" en comunión». Document of the ME Forum.
5 Cf. Del Prete V., «New way of cooperation», Review Omnis Terra, n. 407, May 2010.
6 Cf. Del Prete V., «/ have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!», Review Omnis Terra, n. 370, September-October 2006.
7 Cf. Del Prete V., «l have neither silver nor gold ...».
9 Mollá D., op. cit.
10 Cf. Del Prete V., «I have neither silver nor gold ...».
11 Cf. Del Prete V., «I have neither silver nor gold ...».
12 Cf. Tomicha Charupa R., «Espiritualidades misioneras interculturales», Review Testimonio, Santiago de Chile, n. 230, November-December 2008, p. 59.
13 Cf. Pernía A., «Evangelización y diálogo interreligioso», Review Testimonio, Santiago de Chile, n. 23, November - December 2008, p. 43.
14 Cf. Ibid., p. 44.
15 Aleixandre D., «Espiritualidad ignaciana y profetismo». Contributions to the work «Tradición», p. 141.
16 Cf. Del Prete V, op. cit. (quoting Butturini G.- Colzani G., llluminata passione, p. 126).
17 Cf. «La cooperación misionera: la misión "ad gentes" en comunion» (Document of the Forum of the Review Misiones Extranjeras not yet published).
Ref.: Omnis Terra, April 2011, n. 415, pp. 136-145.